By Josh Sullivan, Sports editor
Andy Vailas ran for a 69-yard touchdown in the game’s opening drive and never looked back on Saturday, en route to a 52-19 victory over Dartmouth College on New Hampshire Day. Vailas stepped in for the injured Sean Goldrich and threw for 219 yards and rushed for 112 against a Dartmouth team that really struggled to get much of anything going
“It was a horrendous performance by us,” Dartmouth head coach Buddy Teevens said. “I think we’re a better football team than we were the last time we played them.”
UNH came into the game a little bit banged and bruised, as quarterback Sean Goldrich, running back Nico Stereti and Dalton Crossan were out. Linebacker Shane McNeely was a game-time decision, while Akim Anderson was also coming off an injury. None of this changed the ‘Cats approach, though, and the team looked at the next person in line on the depth chart to take over.
“Well it’s just like last week, one guy goes down and one guy comes up,” said Jimmy Owens, who took over primary ball carrier duties in Nico’s absence. “I gotta give props to the line, because without them I would have had no carry yards.”
After a bad snap on a punt attempt leading to a safety and an Owens 1-yard touchdown run, the Wildcats found themselves up on top of Dartmouth 17-0 just over five minutes into the first quarter. Dartmouth fought back, though, and after wide receiver Stephen Williams caught his first ever reception for a touchdown and junior tailback Kyle Bramble blew past UNH coverage to catch a lob pass from quarterback Dalyn Williams, the Big Green found themselves down only four points in a 17-13 game.
“At halftime we knew we beat ourselves, we made some mistakes.” McNeely said. “We just had to stay focused and forget the last play to move on and [in the second half] really step it up.”
The Wildcats started the scoring off again at the 8:00 mark. After a drive filled with Vailas completions to wide receivers Jimmy Giansante and R.J. Harris, Owens punched the ball in for a 2-yard touchdown run. A little under seven minutes later, Vailas took the ball to the end zone himself making it a 31-13 game.
The most pivotal moment of the game came in the final minute of the first half, when Dartmouth kick returner Kirby Schoenthaler returned Christian Breda’s kick for 92 yards inside the 5-yard line, setting up what should have been an easy touchdown. Thanks largely to a clutch pass breakup by cornerback Casey DeAndrade and a sack by captain Cody Muller, the Big Green had to settle for a 26-yard field goal from sophomore Alex Gakenheimer.
“I thought a key thing was that stop at the end of the half,” said head coach Sean McDonnell. “It gave us a lot of momentum and a lot of confidence. We were on our heels a little bit defensively, then we went in and got them to kick the field goal.”
Dartmouth would only get one more field goal on the day, a 41-yarder from Gakenheimer brought its point total to 19 on the night.
Harris had eight catches for 113 yards including two touchdown receptions in the third quarter. The first came on a 29-yard touchdown pass from Vailas and the second just inside the two-minute mark for two yards to make the final score 52-19.
The win puts the ‘Cats at 3-1 on the season, a very different start compared to this time last year when the team began 1-3.
Despite the drastic reversal, McDonnell isn’t letting it change his outlook on the season.
“We’re gonna enjoy this until about three in the afternoon tomorrow,” he said. “Then we’re going to sit down and figure out how to try and beat Elon.”